One of Cambodia's nature reserve forests disappeared at the shocking rate of one football pitch every hour of 2019, and the illegal logging that drives deforestation has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forest conservation activists say Cambodia's loss of 26 percent of its tree cover since 2000 is the result of authoritarianism and corruption in the de facto one-party state where the business tycoons and military officials who cull and sell off the country's tropical hardwood enjoy impunity thanks to their close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party.
The standing committee of China's National People's Congress rubber-stamped draconian new security legislation for Hong Kong that bans activities deemed subversive or secessionist. The imposition of the law prompted political groups to disband and set the stage for protests in the city, as well as friction with Western countries over what is seen as a breach of China's international obligations under the 1984 arrangement governing the 1997 handover to Beijing of the former British colony, which was promised a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
Forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwestern China have dramatically increased in recent years, slowing Uyghur population growth rates, according to a new report by researcher Adrian Zenz, who says Beijing's policies “might be characterized as a demographic campaign of genocide.”
Nuclear-armed Asian powers China and India have become embroiled in a tense diplomatic and military standoff over disputed points along their mostly undemarcated, 3,500km (2,200-mile) Himalayan border. The first deadly border clash in more than 40 years between the world's two most populous nations on June 15 left 20 Indian soldiers dead after fierce hand-to-hand combat.
Exiled activists with Cambodia’s banned opposition party are trying to help hundreds of thousands of people left jobless and unable to pay debts to microfinance lenders after the shutdown of the economy to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign to urge rural borrowers to stop their loan payments for at least six months was denounced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who threatened to arrest those who try to “sabotage” his government.
President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping passed his 67th birthday as China deals with fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, trade and security tensions with the United States while other Western countries are rethinking ties with China, a pushback from Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, civil unrest in Hong Kong, deepening estrangement with Taiwan, and global condemnation of its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong has led a campaign to pressure South Korea to stop the flow of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border in balloons by defectors. North Korea cited the leaflets, which criticize Kim Jong Un's nuclear threats and human rights record, when it cut off communications with the South on June 9.
Laos has ambitious plans to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia" by building seven hydro-power dams on the Mekong River, and damming its tributaries, to generate and export electricity to its neighbors. But the mega-projects have displaced thousands of Lao citizens without bringing cheaper power. And dams are adding to the problems of farmers downstream in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos itself, who are suffering drought, a reduction in fish stocks, and from other environmental damage to the vital ecosystem.
Chinese state media and officials have tried to score easy propaganda points from U.S. racial tensions and social unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but the tactic can backfire spectacularly, as Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying found out recently. When she tweeted "I can't breathe" — using some of Floyd's last words with a policeman's knee on his neck — readers were quick to shoot back: "I can't tweet," reminding everyone that twitter is blocked by China.
Under Xi Jinping, China's diplomats have abandoned charm for an aggressive approach called "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy, with envoys taking to Twitter to insult their host countries or threaten trade war against governments that criticize China. Named after a 2017 action blockbuster featuring a Chinese Rambo shooting up foreign bad guys in Africa, the pugnacious diplomacy has been directed at countries as distinct as Sweden, Venezuela and India -- and appears to be getting the same reviews as the movie. Wolf Warrior won awards inside China, but foreign critics cringed at what they described as "heavy-handed flag-waving," "jingoistic jubilance," and "unintentionally amusing" dialog.
The European Commission on May 7 put Cambodia on a blacklist of 12 "high-risk" countries with deficient anti-money laundering programs that "pose significant threats to the EU's financial system." Money laundering in Cambodia often takes the form of elites, including relatives of strongman Hun Sen, hiding money of unknown provenance in overseas banks or real estate, an RFA investigation has shown.
China said on May 21 it would "perfect the legal system" of Hong Kong with national security legislation targeting dissent, while media reports said the Chinese Communist Party might simply insert the unpopular law directly onto Hong Kong's statute book without ratification by the city's legislature -- moves that threaten the "high degree of autonomy" and a separate legal jurisdiction the former British colony was promised for 50 years after 1997.
While state propaganda portrays China as a heroic helper in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic, a number of governments around the world are exploring legal options for holding Beijing accountable for covering up the outbreak in critical early days.